Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
“I told God I was sorry. I made myself feel real bad about that sin. I repented like he wanted me to. Why isn’t he treating me better?” How easily those thoughts creep into our minds! Do you see the grave danger hidden in them?
What’s the underlying mindset propping up those words? Isn’t it: “Well, I’ve done my part, God”—whatever that part might be. The original hearers thought their fasting proved their repentance, and so they deserved God’s favor. Is it your tears, your effort, your faithfulness, your religiousness that tempts you to imagine: “Well, God, I’ve done my part?”
How deadly! For that mindset exchanges the Lord of free and faithful grace for a god who requires his pound of flesh.
But our Lord freely gave his flesh and blood for sinners like you and me—and not only for us but for the world, for this wicked world. What grace! His unmerited kindness sacrificed himself for the undeserving. That’s you and me.
Such grace and love changes our mindset. We now hate our sin and cling to Jesus alone for forgiveness through God’s unconditional promise. That’s repentance. Because of God’s love for us, we love others without thinking what we’ll get out of it. And that love for others shows itself in our actions of kindness and helpfulness. That’s the fruit of repentance.
God’s grace continues to strengthen us to show kindness. When we call out to him for help, he answers: “Here am I. I am with you in my word and sacraments. My grace will never fail you.”
Prayer:(Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal—389)
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill thy law’s demands.
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save and thou alone.
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress,
Helpless, look to thee for grace
Foul, I to the fountain fly—
Wash me, Savior, or I die!
This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.
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